Humanitarian aid and the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit

In the future, the majority of the extremely poor will be living in fragile contexts.
In the future, the majority of the extremely poor will be living in fragile contexts. © SDC

The SDC's Swiss Humanitarian Aid Department focuses on providing help on the ground and promoting respect for international law, with a particular emphasis on protecting civil populations, who are the most affected.

Swiss Humanitarian Aid helps to save lives and alleviate suffering. Together with experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA), it implements programmes of its own and, at the same time, makes its know-how available to partner organisations. In addition, it assists partner organisations in the implementation of their own programmes, providing support in the form of funding, relief supplies and food aid. The focus is therefore on providing emergency assistance on the ground and protecting the most affected populations.

Swiss Humanitarian Aid focuses on two main priorities:

  1. Emergency humanitarian assistance
    For Switzerland, emergency assistance means, in the first place, providing help in the field. The majority of the funding allocated to humanitarian aid is used to protect the most affected civilian populations – primarily refugees and internally displaced persons – and help them meet their most basic needs, e.g. providing emergency shelter, drinking water, sanitation facilities and medical supplies.
  2. Strengthening the legal framework for providing humanitarian aid
    In order to provide help in the field, it is essential to ensure that international humanitarian law and international humanitarian standards and principles are respected. When there is armed conflict, it is essential, if help is to reach the people who are in need, that the parties to the conflict allow international aid organisations access to the civilian population. The SDC is able to raise these concerns in bilateral and multilateral discussions.

Thematic priorities

For the period from 2017 to 2020, Swiss Humanitarian Aid will focus on the following priorities:

  • Protecting the civilian population
  • Disaster risk reduction
  • Water and sanitation
  • Gender-based violence

Geographical priorities

The geographic focus of humanitarian aid will be on the crisis points in the Middle East and in sub-Saharan Africa, where the population will most probably continue to be dependent on emergency assistance for years to come. At the same time, however, Swiss Humanitarian Aid must remain flexible in order to be able to respond as new crises, conflicts or disasters arise.

Humanitarian operations for the victims of the Syria conflict

In 2017, the Syria conflict created 5 million refugees, caused the internal displacement of 6.3 million people, and left a total of 13.5 million in need. It is the most serious humanitarian disaster of our time, placing enormous demands on the international humanitarian aid community.

Since 2011, a total of CHF 315 million was made available to the Humanitarian Aid of SDC for relief assistance to the affected populations in Syria and the neighbouring countries. An additional CHF 41.5 million has been earmarked for assistance to people in need in Iraq since 2014.

The funds were used to support the humanitarian aid programmes of the ICRC and experts in the field working under the auspices of the UN and other non-governmental organisations. An example is the emergency shelter programme of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Damascus, which is being directed by a civil engineer from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit.

In Lebanon and in Jordan, schools have been renovated, making it possible for some 87,000 local children and Syrian refugee children to receive an education.

Furthermore, the Humanitarian Aid of SDC is also engaged in efforts to improve access to the civilian population and to coordinate international aid for Syria.